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MSU Denver, partners offer aviation students easier path to first officer certification

Recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) changes make it more difficult to attain certification to serve as a first officer in a commercial airplane. But Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver) and Colorado Northwestern Community College (CNCC) are making it a little easier for people to get their first officer certification -- an important step toward getting full certification to fly commercially.

The schools are allowing students pursuing an associate's or bachelor's of science degree in aviation to gain flight training at a reduced cost. Under the new FAA requirements first officers on U.S. passenger and cargo airlines must now have an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, which means they must have 1,500 hours of flight experience.

Still, "Most airlines wouldn't hire at that low of an experience level," says Kevin R. Kuhlmann, who teaches Aerospace Science at MSU Denver. He explains that most pilots gain flying hours by teaching flight school and then at between 500 to 1,000 hours of experience they could get hired on as a first officer. "It was almost like an apprenticeship."

Pilots previously only needed a commercial certificate, which only requires 250 hours of flight experience. "Under the old system you were really only talking about 12 months on average until obtaining an ATP," Kuhlmann explains. The new system will add roughly a year or two to the training process.

The arrangement at the two schools will also allow students to obtain a restricted ATP with only 1,250 hours of flight under which they can fly as a co-pilot until they obtain the ATP certification. The restricted ATP could reduce the time to getting an ATP by about 6 months, according to Kuhlmann.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Colorado Medical Price Compare offers clearer view of medical costs

Will you pay $25,000 or $58,000 for a total knee joint replacement? Thi is just the type of question the recently launched Colorado Medical Price Compare website was designed to answer.

Developed by Denver-based Center for Improving Value in Health Care (CIVHC), the site allows users to compare and estimate costs for certain medical procedures at hospitals across the state, what insurers and consumers paid for those services, as well as the quality of service patients received. 

Such pricing information allows the insured and uninsured to understand how much the services will cost for the patients. It also allows hospitals a chance to look at what their peers are charging and could help them find ways to reduce costs on certain procedures to keep competitive with other hospitals. 

"This is the first time price information based on actual payments made by health insurance plans and patients has been made available to Coloradans," explains acting CIVCH CEO Edie Sonn. "It is significant because it marks the first time Coloradans can see real pricing information along with quality data across all commercial payers and Medicaid." The site does not yet have information on self-insured plans.

At this time, the site has information only on four procedures: total knee joint replacement, total hip joint replacement, uncomplicated vaginal birth and cesarean birth. By the end of 2014 CIVHC anticipates adding information about nine more services and ambulatory surgery center prices. In 2015, it plans to more than 25 additional services at a variety of facility types.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Experience People, a tour against tech addiction, comes to Denver

You probably spend a little too much time on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Buzzfeed, or you check your iPhone every few minutes. You might call even it an addiction.

This is the focus of Brian Hiss' Experience People. The 20-city tour comes Denver Aug. 17-19 in a very un-techy 1970s Volkswagen van.

"Every American spends 40 minutes on Facebook a day," Hiss claims. "The closest thing I can relate it to is working from home and someone's ringing your doorbell all day. Would you be able to get anything done and be productive?"

Hiss is a co-founder of Dooble, a social media site, which doesn't yet have information on Denver. But this tour is about disengaging from devices and experiencing people and places. "Every experience we're having now is through a device and not out there in the world where it used to be," Hiss contends. "We're not anti-technology -- it's just that technology is there to engage the experience, not be the experience."

The Denver schedule isn't finalized. Hiss says he's barely checking his phone while on the road -- but the tour, which is bing coordinated by Dooble Co-Founder Ryan Bearbower and includes Rob Loud, who's filming the tour for a documentary --already has a number of engagements. They include a live interview on KDVR's Good Day Colorado on Mon. Aug 18, a presentation and discussion at Denver Open Coffee Club and other events.

"What we really hope to get out of this is to really change the course of the entrepreneurial world, the business world and helping them to foster new best processes where we're not creating the habit-forming experiences and manipulating people," Hiss says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Dinner Lab brings its dining experiment to Denver

Don't expect to see Bunsen burners and test tubes when Dinner Lab hosts its first event in Denver on Sept. 26 -- although it's hard to know exactly what to expect. Part of the idea is allowing up-and-coming chefs to experiment with ideas and present them to members and guests.

Dinner Lab held its first events in New Orleans about two and a half years ago, according to Market Development Manager Ken Macias. Since then, it has held its events in 10 locations from New York City to San Francisco. Now it's bringing its pop-up dinner club to Denver and eight other locations. 

The concept gives new and little-known chefs a chance to stand out. "We don't usually use the head chef, but a sous chef or a line cook," Macias says. "We're really trying to give the chefs an opportunity to develop their own menus."

The company recently had its first tour of chefs. Based on member response, the company chose the best chefs to cook for more markets throughout the country. In fact, the chef who will kick off Denver's event is Danny Espinoza of Chicago's Mexique.

The other chefs that will serve dishes at the Denver have yet to be named, but they will be about 50 percent local chefs and 50 percent from Dinner Lab's other markets, Macias says.

If you're interested in joining the soiree, you'll have to sign up ahead of time. "We don't disclose our locations until the day before the event," Macias says. "We'll email them the day before. As far as our chefs and menus go, we release them three weeks out."

Membership is $125 and events will typically run $60 to $80 per person, and dinners will be staged in wineries, galleries and even empty warehouses.

The company has partnered with investors to help the best chefs in the program open their own restaurants, says Macias.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Find local breweries and more with CraftedHere

Want to find the nearest or newest brewery or marijuana dispensary in Colorado? Check out Denver-based Craft Boom's recently launched app, CraftedHere.

The app is available on Apple and Android devices and the information also is available via craftedhere.us.

Craft Boom CEO Chase Doelling explains that the company launched the app about a month ago and are now starting to bring attention to it after a softer launch.

"What we're hoping to capitalize on now is cannabis tourism," Doelling says. "As people come in they're mainly focussed on trying cannabis because its legal. But there are all these breweries here and all this here and you can capture all the side markets. People might not know what's around the corner from them outside of just landing in downtown and wandering close to the center of the city."

Currently the app and site cover five categories of Colorado-friendly crafts: breweries, cannabis shops, coffee shops, distilleries and wineries. Doelling says the information is populated from state records and actual experiences. Information for each brewery includes information about their awards at the Great American Beer Festival. However, instead of customer reviews, the app uses badges to rate the sites.

Also, the map-based app can show users what's nearby. "So if you're in a brewery it will tell you what's the nearest coffee shop, the closest park and going down the list," Doelling says. In the future, the Craft Boom team could cover restaurants and other points of crafty interest, he adds.

At this point, the information is only available for Colorado and users can manually submit information about new breweries through email, but can't add them to the app or site. As the user base grows, Doelling hopes to expand it to more markets to the western U.S.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Backyard farmers get support from Denver's new cottage foods code

Denver's residents can now sell produce and goods thanks to the city's recently passed cottage foods code.

"This change will work to increase healthy food options for families and add new opportunities for supplemental earnings that can make a real difference in the economic and physical health of lower income residents," says Mayor Michael Hancock. "I want to recognize the Denver Sustainable Food Policy Council for recommending this policy change and I want to thank Councilmembers Robin Kniech, Susan Shepherd and Albus Brooks for leading the passage of this ordinance."

Under the text amendment, which went into effect July 18, residents in Denver can obtain a permit to sell their homegrown fruits, vegetables and herbs. They can also sell their chicken or duck eggs and unrefrigerated cottage foods like spices, teas, honey, jams, and certain baked goods. All products that they can sell are defined in the Colorado Cottage Food Act.

"The permit costs $20 and does not have to be renewed annually," says Andrea Burns of the Denver Department of Community Planning and Development. "It goes with the property so would only need to be replaced if the property changes ownership."

Under the new provision, residents will have to obtain a "home occupation" zoning permit, the city says. If a resident plans to sell cottage foods, they also have to complete a food safety course.   

"Denver has always been known as a city that appreciates farm-to-table and using fresh produce and locally sourced foods, but this new law creates a whole new level of urban farming that will allow the city to become one big farmer's market," says Visit Denver CEO Richard Scharf.

Scharf adds that many restaurants in and around Denver are already growing their own foods, like the Colorado Convention Center. The Blue Bear Farm is now growing 5,000 pounds of fresh fruits, vegetables and spices used in its kitchens.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Glassation blows up in Denver

Denver is the nation's capital for the glass-art community, says Mandy Davis, Founder of online glass-art community and market Glassation. The site offers all manner of glass art from fused and painted glass to blown glass and smoke ware. "Basically we're the Amazon of glass art," Davis says.

Davis launched the site around four years ago as a social network for the glass art community, she says. At the time she was studying at University of Tampa. She met Zen Glass Studio owner Josh Poll who mentored her. Afterward she moved to Colorado because of the glass-art scene here. "Our followers and our fans are mostly in Colorado so it made sense for us to relocate here," she says. "So right now we're just focusing on making with the local glass community in Colorado, particularly Denver."

Glassation offers artists' works and also works with equipment suppliers to provide for glass artists' needs, according to Davis. Since the site began as a social network for the glass art community about four years ago, it has morphed into what it is today, incorporating the marketplace for artists -- which launched this January -- and other features such as blogs, she says.

The artists offering pieces on the site are from across the U.S., the U.K. and Israel. "To be on the website, [artists] must apply with their artist's statement as well as four quality photos," she says.

Currently Glassation is an online-only endeavor, but Davis has considered opening up a retail location. "We have been playing around with that idea for a while...but right now it's completely online," she says. "We also have a catalog and our fall catalog will come out soon."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

No items too large or small for Closetbox

A 1,000-square-foot apartment in Denver doesn't have enough space for two kayaks, skis, books, extra furniture, a mountain bike and road bike, skis, climbing gear and other outdoor goodies.

That's where Closetbox enters the picture. The company, which launched in early 2014, offers what it calls a concierge storage service that can accommodate people's needs -- no matter how large or small -- for storage.

"We are doing door-to-door delivery of storage," says Founder and CEO Markus J. Mollmann. "We are making storage convenient for busy folks living in an urban environment who live in smaller spaces."

Mollmann says they founded the company after he and wife had twins and started running out of space at home. He'd have to call friends to help move the items he couldn't handle himself. "There were two options before us: Hire a mover, which is $350 minimum for them to touch an item," he says. "We didn't want to go that route." The other option was self storage. "They'll give you a free truck and a free month which is fine but what we really needed was help moving so we incorporated both."

It follows that Closetbox offers storage based on customers' needs, according to Mollmann. That means a piece as small as a shoebox or a storage space like a 10-foot box. What's more, he says, the company makes storage as easy as printing up a label and ordering pick up and delivery of items at no extra charge.

Rates for the company's services start at as little as $15 a month and $2 per item. Or people can rent a storage space more like a conventional storage facility but still have the convenience of having the company pick up and drop off stored items within 24 hours.

In addition, rates are similar to those at self storage facilities in Denver, Mollmann says. The company's 100-square-foot units go for $143 a month. "Downtown, the most inexpensive storage facility in Denver is between $140 and $160 a month," he says. Such storage facilities also charge administration fees over $20 a month, push insurance and people have to secure their possessions with locks. Closetbox monitors the premises 24/7 and people can check on the status of their items anytime.

The service has grown quickly. "We're seeing two times growth month over month," says Mollman, adding that the company plans to expand.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

WALKscope helps Denver address walkability weaknesses

WalkDenver introduced WALKscope, a new online app that allows people -- anywhere in Denver and some surrounding areas -- to quickly identify and add to a database of pedestrian issues. Already the organization is harnessing the app's power to create reports on pedestrian issues near schools, to make them safer who students who walk, bike or skate to school.

"It's an interactive map that anybody can use to crowd-source data about the pedestrian infrastructure in their own neighborhood," explains Jill Locantore, WalkDenver's Policy and Program Director. "They just add a pin to the map, add some information: Is there a sidewalk? How wide is it? Is it in good condition?"

Users can also upload information about intersections, crosswalks whether drivers are obeying stop signs and other safety concerns.

"It's so that we can start building up the evidence base of pedestrian infrastructure and where do we see the real needs and start focussing attention so the city can make better more informed decisions about how it chooses to spend its limited transportation dollars," Locantore says. "We're sharing the information with the principals of the schools, Denver Public Works, CDOT and other entities that are interested in using this information to make the case for some very targeted improvements."

WalkDenver partnered with Denver's PlaceMatters to create the app, according to Locantore. "It was kind of a perfect marriage," she says. "We got a grant from the organization Mile High Connects in 2013. WalkDenver and PlaceMatters together to develop the application."

The app launched in February at the Partners for Smart Growth conference and attendees were asked to, well, walk a mile in their shoes so to speak, identifying pedestrian issues and adding them to the map.

"Since then, we've been encouraging people to use it as a tool but also we're very focused on walk audits," Locantore says. The audits are more in-depth walkability reviews of neighborhoods and areas around schools, particularly in low-income neighborhoods and those with high pedestrian accidents.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

DPL celebrates launch of Denver patent office with Steve Jobs exhibit

The Denver branch of the U.S. Commerce Department's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) officially opened June 30. To commemorate its opening, the Denver Public Library (DPL) is hosting an exhibit covering prolific inventor Steve Jobs. The exhibit, The Patents and Trademarks of Steve Jobs: Art and Technology that Changed the World, shows off 300 of the 317 patents issued to the late CEO of Apple.

It looks like a collection of iPhones fit for a blue whale with a yen for technology. "It's pretty big," explains Frank Wilmot, a senior librarian with DPL's Reference Services. "It's about eight feet tall and 20 yards long," he says. The display is housed in the DPL's Central Library's Schlessman Hall through Sept. 22.

Don't expect to make any jumbo-sized calls on them, all but one are static displays, Wilmot says. "The only thing that changes is the slideshow at one end of it." The slide show displays some of the trademarks Jobs patented.

The new patent office, housed in the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building, is the first federal patent office west of the Mississippi. It's anticipated to create 120 direct positions, generate $440 million in Colorado during its first five years in operation.

The Denver Public library is a designated Patent & Trademark Resource Center (PTRC), which provides inventors and patent lawyers, among others, a valuable resource for investigating patents including access to USPTO Web-based Search Systems and PubWEST database.

Wilmot says John Posthumus, a Denver-based patent attorney, worked with Rocky Mountain IP Collective, Invent Now, Inc. and the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to bring the exhibit to Denver.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

LoHi Labs' Three Cents polling app a quick hit

LoHi Labs launched its free Three Cents polling app in May, and it quickly took off. "We got featured by Apple out of the gate as one of their 'Best New App's on the front page of the App Store and we've actually been featured every week since in the social networking category which has been pretty awesome," says Co-Founder and Product & Business Guy Conor Swanson.

So far, it hass generated more than 400,000 votes across the world since launching, including polls generated as far away as Indonesia. Not bad for LoHi Labs first internal product.

"We do a lot of client work helping build out applications for other startups around Denver and, actually, around the country," Swanson says. "The idea is something that we essential bootstrapped using funds from the consulting business."

The iPhone-only app is designed so that others using a phone or computer can respond to the polls,Swanson explains. It integrates data from numerous sources including Yelp, iTunes, TripAdvisor, Rotten Tomatoes, the App Store and more.

"One of the coolest things we've done on Three Cents is create an experience with Twitter," says Swanson. A poll published to Twitter becomes part of the Twitter stream "so you can see the full poll inside of Twitter and vote with one click without ever leaving Twitter."

"A really famous talk-show host in Indonesia who has 13 million followers on Twitter used our app to create a poll and ask a questions about public exams," Swanson says. "Over the course of the day, he got over 10,000 votes via Twitter on his Three Cents poll."

The polls are open to the public or sent to specific people, depending on what the user wants. "There are a lot of polls around social and political issues that are happening," Sawnson says. "We see a lot of question about sports, social topics, current events, personal preferences and relationship things. People go there to get ideas for movies to watch over the weekend."

Currently the developers are focussed on the consumer side of things. "There's a lot of interesting potential for the app down the road with regards to advertising and some of the other things we're doing in the app itself," Swanson says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Colorado Enterprise Fund expands opportunities for healthy foods, small businesses

Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) recently introduced the Healthy Foods Fund to increase access to healthy foods across the state.

"We're the only Colorado entity or nonprofit involved in deploying those Healthy Foods Fund programs," explains CEF spokesperson Alisa Zimmerman. The fund offers loans of up to $250,000 to support retail grocers of all manner; packaging, processing and manufacturing food enterprises; food production companies; food distributors; urban agriculture projects and all segments of the food system in rural and urban areas of Colorado.

"There are a lot of areas, not just in urban parts of Colorado but throughout the state that are considered food deserts," Zimmerman says. "We're looking forward to helping small businesses that are involved in everything from farming to retail -- to any point along the food system to enhance their particular enterprises with funding from us."

She says the goal is "to reach more people so that everybody in Colorado has access to fresh foods within a mile of their home."

"It's a comprehensive kind of approach to the healthy food markets in Colorado," Zimmerman continues. "Which I think we're already ahead of being aware of it. But how do we do it?"

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Avanti Food & Beverage to be a "Galvanize for restaurateurs"

A cluster of shipping containers in the former Avanti Printing & Graphics building at 3200 Pecos St. in LoHi might be a panacea for restaurateurs or chefs looking to introduce and test new restaurant concepts without all of the costs associated with launching a full-fledged restaurant. That's the concept behind Avanti Food & Beverage, which is being called a Galvanize for restaurant startups.

"What we're trying to do is create this incubator as a whole," explains Co-Founder Patrick O'Neill, who started Choppers Custom Salads and The Club in Vail. O'Neill partnered with Brad Arguello, a founder of Über Sausage and Rob Hahn, a local real-estate developer and investor, on the concept. It is expected to open in early 2015.

"Brad and I wanted to create a low-risk, culinary think tank for chefs and restaurateurs," O'Neill says. They can launch their concept at the site for an about $12,000 investment up front, he says. "As opposed to $300,000 minimum for a standard brick and mortar." The restaurants will also pay a flat monthly rental rate and a small percentage of the sales.

"There are eight different licensed restaurants all based out of modified shipping containers," he adds. "Each one of these containers will be outfitted with high-end restaurant equipment -- ranges, flat grills, press tables, storage, refrigeration. It's all going to be there with a kind of communal, shared space as well."

Avanti is targeting restaurant concepts with smaller plates and prices no higher than $15 to allow people to try a variety of foods, according to O'Neill.

"It's going to be anchored by two bars, one downstairs, one upstairs," O'Neill says. "There will be five containers downstairs and three upstairs. There's also a good amount of deck space upstairs. It's all under one liquor license as well."

They anticipate that after a year in the incubator the restaurants will double their investment. "We really want to provide support," O'Neill says. "If they want to expand into a brick and mortar, we'll form something like an advisory committee. We'll have architects and builders and potential investors and ourselves and we'll sit down and say, 'Here's what you've got to do to take the next step.'"

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Digital Media Academy brings world-class tech training for teens to Denver

This summer, teens and youth are getting their first chance to enroll in a summer camp that could help them become masters of the digital world through the Digital Media Academy (DMA) at Regis University. The camps are part of a program that was created at Stanford University in 2002 and are quickly reaching capacity here in Denver.

"We're about finding kids that want to be the next Steve Spielberg, the next Steve Jobs," says Vince Matthews, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for DMA. "Technology today has turned them into kind of a maker generation where kids can take apps and bring them into a computer program and modify them and do something unique or different with them. We're about empowering people of all ages to create the future."

That's where the DMA steps in. "We teach anything related to digital media primarily creating things with media creation tools," says Matthews, citing C++, Java, iOS and Android as well as app and game development. The company also teaches filmmaking, photography, and "anything related to those creative arts and related to those creative arts and creating something with technology including…robotics," he says.

The program differentiates itself, Matthews says, with experienced educators. "Our instructors are industry professionals or technology educators that have been doing this for years," he says. "They are leaders in their space from a standpoint of working in the space for years and are teaching real world skill sets using the same tools and technologies that professionals use."

The camps are quickly selling out with only two starting on June 23 having availability. The camps for kids from 6 to 17 run through July 11. "We're expecting to sell out at all of our classes at all locations this summer," says Matthews.

The company also offers adult training and certification but that's currently only available at Stanford, according to Matthews.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

BodeTree enhances small business with new partnerships, capital

Small businesses need all the help they can get to grow bigger. That's where BodeTree fits in. The company offers an online platform to help small businesses understand where they are and tools to help them grow as they see fit -- mostly for free.

The Denver-based company recently announced a $2 million round of financing that will help expand its client base from about 50,000 small businesses to 200,000 through unique partnerships with local small business associations in Arizona, Michigan and Ohio. "Really, what that enables us to do is to scale to 20,000 to 30,000 users at a time through [each] organization," says BodeTree CEO Chris Meyer.

Where other small business platforms and tools focus on visualizing data through dashboards, BodeTree offers a steering wheel and control pedals. "The thing we compete against most poignantly is inaction and kind of the status quo of business owners not recognizing that these sorts of insights are available to them," says Meyer. "We visualize data but we have more of a humanistic approach.…Data visualization is a means to an end as opposed to an end in itself. We're more focused on where they [i.e., the businesses] stand today relative to the competition. Relative to what could be and really where they want to go in the future."

To this end, BodeTree offers tools that include valuation, target setting and interactive comparative analysis using data from the Risk Management Association (RMA), which banks use to rate investment risks. Meyer says the majority of tools are free but the company offers a premium service for $49.95 a month or $495 a year. Those services include peer comparison, reporting and capital raising.

"We connect the user with specific solutions to help them take action," he adds. "Funding is a huge component. We have an automated funding solution in there and several partners and applications that can actually help them act on the insight that we provide."

That includes helping businesses get credit cards, loans and funding through regional and national banks as well as alternative funders like Kabbage. The platform can streamline the underwriting process from 90 days to about five or six days, Meyer says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.
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